Monday, March 01, 2010

Blame it on the Brain
A great NPR story today tries to explain why teenagers can be so messed up. They aren't just selfish and completely lacking in judgment for no reason. Their brains is muddy.
[Neuroscientist Francis] Jensen says scientists used to think human brain development was pretty complete by age 10. Or as she puts it, that "a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it."

But it's not. To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. Really.

"It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' " Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly."

That's because the nerve cells that connect teenagers' frontal lobes with the rest of their brains are sluggish. Teenagers don't have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or "white matter," that adults have in this area.
I've heard versions of this info before, but this piece really puts it all together and is fairly entertaining. Give it a listen/read.

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